Pranayama is the formal practice of controlling the breath, which is the source of our prana, or vital life force. Pranayama is the working with the breath in a way that activates the vital energy, the five pranas of the system, as well as moves the lymph and increases oxygen in the system. Pranayama is defined as yogic breathing exercises often used to activate the Kundalini energy. Pranayama is very important, and generally increases the prana of the mind and helps expand consciousness. Pranayama purifies the annamaya kosha, the kamamaya kosha, and especially the manomaya kosha. The manomaya kosha is strongly affected because, when the prana is steady and full, the mind becomes quiet. When the mind becomes quiet, then the Light filtering through the higher koshas can come through more easily. When the mind is active, it steals all the Light coming through to us from the Atman and we are not able to directly experience the Light that is naturally ours. A mind filled with concepts, worry, anxiety, and regrets grabs this Light to maintain its existence. Pranayama is very important, and generally increases the prana of the mind and helps expand consciousness. At the level of the annamaya kosha, pranayama is the developing of physical prana, which moves up all the way through the subtle levels to the vijnanamaya kosha.
In modern Yoga teachings, it is said that approximately 90 percent of the energy utilized by the body is from oxygen taken in by the lung and skin systems. In the absence of oxygen, our physical bodies can only survive a few minutes. We can live without water for a few weeks and go without food for months. “Vitamin O” is our most important nutrient. This form of energy intake is the most commonly used meaning for the word prana. It is the life force that many experience when they walk into a forest and smile as they inhale the vibrant air.
One of the most important ways to increase oxygen in the system is through breathing exercises. Over thousands of years, Yogis have developed breathing exercises (pranayama) to energize the system, to calm the mind for meditation, and to activate the Kundalini energy directly. This subject is too vast for this book, but there are some simple breathing
exercises that will greatly enhance our “Vitamin O” intake. The purpose for these exercises is to help us become aware of how to take a full breath and how to get a full oxygen meal. We breathe all day to stay alive, but most people are using only about 10 percent of their breath capacity. When up to 90 percent of metabolic energy comes from breathing, it merits at least some of the attention we pay to eating our physical food.
When a person is not getting enough prana, they tend to become more stubborn and hypersensitive with poorly functioning mitochondria in the brain and body cells; memory decreases and emotions are imbalanced. This can result in depression, with intense desire to be in the mountains, hills, and the oceans. It can also result in a need for seclusion. The bottom line is that it is very important to breathe and do pranayama practices (breathing exercises). It is very important when you realize, according to some studies, that by the time you’re seventy you can lose up to 50 percent of your lung capacity. This does not apply to people who are doing regular breathing exercises. At the Tree of Life we put a strong emphasis on increasing oxygenation at the mitochondrial level with several non-invasive oxygenation technologies. Oxygenation and maintaining iron levels can significantly slow the aging and senility process.
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